3.2k words (11–13 mins to read)
So you’re a muscle and fitness beginner? This is a good thing!
You know you’re a beginner.
You’re here so have already proven to yourself that you want to get started.
Your future is bright because exercise is a fundamental part of a healthy lifestyle, from improving sleep and lowering stress to reducing your risk of major illnesses and literally extending your life.
We could literally be here all day linking studies that show the benefits of exercise, so, to be honest, we’re just not going to bother. But just know that if there’s one thing you could do that would drastically improve your health in multiple ways it would be exercise (another would be improving your sleep, itself benefitted by exercise).
Simply exercising and getting in shape can even help you to regain control over your life through a sense of accomplishment and improved discipline.
How Should You Start Working Out
You should start working out with everyday activities because the goal is to gradually break you into exercising. We don’t want you going from 0–60 on the turn of a dime and then burning out within a month.
Building your momentum up slow and steady is the best way to start an exercise routine.
Further, equipment or gym memberships are not required. Sure, they can assist, but they’re not necessary because everyday activities can be enough to live a healthier life, and every exercise can be viewed as an opportunity to strengthen the mind and body.
Here are 4 excellent ways to start working out when you’re a muscle and fitness beginner.
Walking is the simplest form of exercise there is (and maybe the healthiest). There is little thought that goes into walking and the activity does not feel like a chore. A walk outside every day can alleviate stress and might add years to life. No, that’s not an exageration.
Having spent time outside, you may have noticed, also makes you feel happier and more energetic.
Go for a walk. It really is good for you!
Hiking offers even more opportunity than walking to get in touch with nature. It’s like walking, but often going further and with the added benefit of seeing more sights and different surroundings.
Yoga and meditation are commonly practiced around the world. They are best known for their relaxing, stretching, and believed healing effects. Yoga also uses a variety of techniques to control breathing.
Other benefits of yoga are increased strength, posture, and flexibility, all of which are beneficial things to pursue, no matter our age.
Weight lifting is not necessarily pumping iron at the gym. Every object is an opportunity to work your muscles, so don’t shy away from lifting heavy stuff because strong muscles are good for myriad of reasons.
Lower body strength in particular (and balance) can even decrease your risk of a fall (1, 2,), which is particularly notable for our later years as falls can lead to fractures and breakages, which can lead to a whole host of complications, especially in the elderly.
■ ▲ ●
The main thing about exercise and probably number one in the hierarchy of exercise rules for beginners to follow is that you enjoy it.
Of course, these 4 ways to start working out are not your only options. They’re given as they’re simple to take up and get involed in, which, although not number 1, are still pretty fundamental exercise rules for beginners to follow and are robust ways to try and break yourself into the lifestyle change. Swimming could have been another excellent example to use.
But here’s the thing:
If you don’t enjoy the exercise that you’re doing then chances are you’re not going to do it for long and will end up stopping, which removes any chance of gaining the benefits to be had.
Indeed, not enjoying the exercise is one of the common ways to improperly start working out and it stops us getting firmly into exercise and the lifestyle. In effect, it prevents us from getting fit.
How To Properly Start Working Out
Here is how to properly start working out and avoid some of the common mistakes that can end up sabotaging your efforts and making you quit before you succeed with your goals.
Don’t Do Too Much Too Soon
When people first start exercising they often go looking for examples of what to do.
But the trouble is that the examples we usually see are people who already have an exercise routine and have been involved in exercise for some time.
These people you are trying to emulate have experience they’ve gained through trial and error, and, sometimes, many years of doing it.
You don’t want to copy them. You’ll hear stuff like being in the gym, whether doing cardio or weights, 5 days a week. These people love it and they’re totally committed to the lifestyle.
But this is not you, at least not yet. Maybe one day it will be.
How To Start An Exercise Program When You Are Out Of Shape
There are two ways for how to start an exercise program when you are out of shape.
Try and commit to exercising 2 days a week. If you really feel like you can only do 1 then do 1, but try and do 2.
After some time doing this (1, 2, 3 weeks/months, whatever), you may feel as if your enthusiasm towards exercising is up and you want to add another day.
Add another day.
Go back to step 2.
Commit to 5 minutes of training per day and then, when the timer is up, either stop if you want to or do another 5 minutes if you feel up to it.
Go easy. How easy? Easy! If it feels hard it’s too hard, literally.
Don’t rush. Break yourself in.
You can stay in this easy phase for as long as you want, although after a month or so you’ll need to increase the stimulus to continue getting fitter, either by adding time or going harder.
If you assume you’re better than this from the start and just go into hammer and tong without any experience then it’ll likely burn you out within a month (at best), and you’ll stop doing everything and won’t exercise at all, potentially for years.
Start slow. Go easy. You can always add more if you want more or feel as though what you’re doing isn’t enough.
Don’t Set Too Many Rules for Yourself
The simplest way to quit before you accomplish your fitness goal is to make your routine too strict. Remember, you’re a muscle and fitness beginner, not a veteran gym rat.
If you set strict rules to follow (must do it X days a week at X time for X hours, etc.) before you even know what you actually want to do, what you like, and what you are truly capable of, then you are setting yourself up to fail because it’s a higher workload and more pressure and stress.
Try a few different scenarios to see what works best for you.
If you’re an early riser, exercising in the morning may suit you.
If you’re not an early riser, exercising in the afternoon or evening may suit your lifestyle better.
If you prefer to do it on a whim then do it on a whim.
If you like doing it fasted then do it fasted.
If you prefer to be fed then be sure to eat and hour or two before exercise.
Experiment to see what you like.
You also don’t need a slew of apps on your phone, a notebook or a stopwatch when you first start, and the only reason to get this stuff when you first start is out if it helps with your motivation and adherence.
Don’t Exercise for Someone Else’s Reason
In a general sense, there’s 3 reasons to exercise:
Any one of these, or all three, is a perfectly valid reason to exericse. And you should exercise for whichever one makes you want to do it the most.
Reasons To Exercise
If you don’t know what your motivation is then it may be worth taking the time to find out why you want to exercise. Don’t just say ‘fitness’ because fitness encompasses:
Mental & Emotional fitness
Of couse, by exercise we most often mean physical fitness, but even physical fitness is not entirely straight forward because there’s health related physical fitness and skill related physical fitness.
Health Related Fitness
Under Health Related Fitness comes:
Cardiovascular (CV) fitness.
Skill Related Fitness
Under Skill Related Fitness comes:
You can pursue one of these or multiple (and exercise generally improves on more than one at the same time), but knowing why you want to exercise will help with your motivation and discipline towards it as you’ll have more explicit goals and so more focus on your actual aims that you want realised.
Exercising For Weight Loss
As an aside, if your only goal is to lose weight then, depending on how much you want to lose, exercise alone is unlikely to cut it and you should couple it to a proper fat loss diet.
If you only have a bit of fat to lose then sure, exercise alone could do it for you.
Don’t Force Yourself To Do Something You Don’t Enjoy
It’s worth reiterating the first in the list of exercise rules for beginners as it’s an extremely common mistake.
Sure, we want to jump into exercise because we know we ought to, we then either ask around (or online) and often get told that we should be doing some cardio, to run on a treadmill or something.
But if you don’t like running on a treadmill don’t do it.
If instead you like the feeling you have after you’ve done a yoga routine, stick with that instead.
Exercise can be fun and even relaxing and there are plenty of exercise systems for you to try, so don’t stick to something you don’t enjoy.Exercise can be fun and even relaxing and there are plenty of exercise systems for you to try, so don't stick to something you don't enjoy. Click To Tweet
Best Way To Start An Exercise Routine
Exercising does not need to be a battle. It should actually be the converse of this and feel like a reward because you enjoy it.
This isn’t wishful thinking. There’s so many ways to move the body out there and it’s not just limited to the machines that are found in a gym.
How do you like moving your body already?
If you don’t know, look online for activities.
Try more things.
You never know where your passion may lie.
Not answering these questions is why people sometimes ask questions like “how to start working out when you hate it”. Although it’s certainly a noble pursuit, it’s the completely wrong mindset. Start working out by finding something you enjoy and then you won’t hate it and will actually want to do it. It will become a kind of reward for you.
■ ▲ ●
You will be much more successful in achieving your exercise goals if you know how to properly start working out and avoid those four common mistakes:
Don’t do too much too soon.
Don’t set too many rules for yourself.
Don’t exercise for someone else’s reason.
Don’t force yourself to do something you don’t enjoy.
It’s your life, so create and do the exercise routine that works for you.
Keeping Up Your Motivation
After we’ve got ourselves onboard with exercising, we’re no longer a muscle and fitness beginner, and we’re feeling pretty good about ourselves, we need to keep going.
And the hardest part of exercise is not the lifting of weights or running, it’s continuing to find the will to get up and do it in the first place.
This is further reason why starting easy, either with only 2 days a week or committing to just 5 minutes when you first begin, is a good idea because, well, it makes it easier for you.
This is especially true of the second way where you’re just committing to 5 minutes a day because you can always force yourself out of your inertia to do just 5 minutes.
Plenty of people find themselves slipping away from their exercise routine because they have trouble maintaining motivation, often because they’ve committed one of the 4 common mistakes above.
But even if you’ve trumped those 4 mistakes, your motivation and discipline could still need a helping hand, so here are 4 ways to help you out.
Make It A Habit
The easiest way to turn an activity into a habit is to do it every day.
But it’s one thing to promise to yourself that you’ll exercise every day, and another to actually get off your butt and do it.
Remember though, the hardest part is to start, continuing is pretty easy.
Fight back against any urge to skip out on exercising when you don’t have any reason not to go.
The more often you can stick to your exercise the sooner (and easier) it will develop into a habit.
Get An Exercise Buddy
Some people enjoy exercising by themselves and some don’t. If your exercise is not as enjoyable as you wish it was, even when doing things that you do enjoy, then you may have a better time exercising with a partner.
Partners can be good for company, encouragement and motivation, as well as general help on exercises.
If you don’t have access to an exercise buddy then group exercise is also a thing. From spin classes to boxercise, there’s always some group doing something.
Find Joy In It
We touched on this a little above, but exercise shouldn’t be viewed as something you “have to do”. And it certainly shouldn’t be viewed as a punishment. You’re doing it wrong if that’s the case.
Learn to develop a positive relationship with exercise by thinking of it as something you “get” to do. To have the ability and time to enjoy exercise is something that should never be taken for granted as many people can’t do it.
Exercise because you love your body, not because you hate it.
Try and have and maintain an upbeat perspective on it.
Track Your Progress
This can be another way to increase your enjoyment of it and maintaining that upbeat perspective because exercise can get frustrating when it feels like you’re not making any progress.
In order to make your progress feel more apparent then you need to keep a log and track it.
At the end of a cardio workout, write down what you did or were able to get done. If you’re lifting weights then note down the weight of each exercise and the sets and reps that you did on it.
Any Increase Is Progress
Runninig a bit further or faster or longer or doing an additional rep or adding a little bit more weight is all progress. And incremental progress is how we continue to get better, or fitter, or stronger. It’s called Progressive Overload.
So many have trouble with exercise motivation, but tracking your progress is how you can see in black and white that you’re getting better all the time.
■ ▲ ●
Something else that can help us with exercise motivation is music.
What To Listen To During Your Workouts
Our bodies like us to stay fit and active, but we aren’t designed to pursue exercise for its own sake. As such, music can gives us a helping hand. Indeed, music and exercise can go hand in hand, and the former can often spur on the latter.
Why Is Music Good for Your Mental State?
For one, it’s a particular type of stimulus that can keep us amused, focused, or energetic (depending on type of music or sound) without overloading our brains.
Even for relaxation, some people like to listen to pure white noise, unadulterated chaos like the broadcasts of radiation from the cosmos.
Even the sound of the human voice itself, such as on a podcast or television, can be soothing. Indeed, podcasts are my go-to source of noise for falling asleep to.
Mixing Music & Exercise
A beat, such as from music, can keep you energetic and feeling like you have more get-up-and-go. The type of music that grants you this energy is highly subjective, from heavy and low bass drums to fast and higher frequency guitars.
Indeed, people have been mixing music with their exercise for millenia, the first roots of which were likely in the form of dancing.
Dancing is actually fantastically energetic and an excellent form of exercise for your entire body, from your muscles to your cardiovascular system to your mental state. It also makes you feel really good, so dance often if you like it.
Mixing exercise and music nearly always makes you more focused on the task at hand.
■ ▲ ●
Exercise helps with managing your weight and promotes physical and mental well-being, even comparing favourably to antidepressant medications.
Indeed, from stress reduction, and better cognition to increased positive mood and decreased negative thoughts, exercise proves to be one of the best natural supplements for mental health and one of the best activities you can engage in for self-care—especially if you engage in activities that make you the happiest.
It’s also excellent for improving your sleep.
Of couse, you should consult a physician before beginning any exercise regimen, especially if you’re unsure, but the general guidelines are to attempt to exercise at least 150 minutes per week if you are doing activities like walking or swimming and 75 minutes per week if you are engaging in more challenging activities such as running.
Remember, start out easy. Starting out too intense can be counterproductive and potentially set you back weeks, or even months due to injury.
Pursuing and maintaining a healthier lifestyle will grow your confidence and make you feel good.
As we mentioned above, the most difficult part is getting started, but just force yourself to get moving, say for those 5 minutes, and you’re on your way!
Lastly, even though we’re in danger of being redundant for the umpteenth time, the most important thing is to find activities you enjoy. This argument holds whether you’re a muscle and fitness beginner or a veteran.
Doing activities that you can, and want, to fit in to your life and schedule is a recipe for long term success.
Good luck! And I’ll see you on the court!